Intestinal worms are a common parasite that can be easily contracted by dogs. The intestinal worms of concern are Hookworms, Roundworms, Whipworms and Tapeworms. Not only can these intestinal worms have an ill effect on animals but they can also be passed onto humans and cause some serious health issues.
This article contains information on the most common intestinal worms to affect dogs, how they are contracted and the effects they can have on a dogs health. It also discusses the different intestinal wormers available to prevent worm burdens.
Hookworms are passed from one animal to another when an infected animal sheds eggs in their faeces. These eggs then hatch and develop into larvae which can be either ingested or penetrate through the skin of the new host. The hookworm larvae will live in the small intestine and develop into an adult worm. This adult hookworm will attach to the intestinal wall and feed on the blood and tissue. Symptoms caused by a hookworm infestation include bloody diarrhoea and anaemia, which can be so serious that it can lead to death, particularly in puppies.
Roundworms are the most common worm parasite to infect dogs. An animal can become infected with roundworms when they ingest the eggs that have been expelled in the faeces of an infected animal. The eggs are then often found on the soil or even in an intermediate host like a rat or mouse that the animal may then eat (some or part of). They can also be passed on to puppies through the placenta in utero or through the mothers milk. Once developed the adult roundworm will live in the stomach and intestines of the host. The adult worms can end up causing intermittent vomiting and diarrhoea. Roundworms are most harmful to puppies as the larvae can affect their lungs, liver and brain. A heavy burden in young animals will cause them to have a dull coat, failure to thrive, stunted growth and anaemia which can lead to death.
Whipworms are contracted when a dog consumes the eggs that have been expelled by an infected dog. The eggs are very tolerant and can remain in the environment for many years, so re-infestation is common. The adult whipworm will attach to the large intestine and feed on blood. In mild infestations there are often no symptoms seen. When the whipworm burden becomes heavier the dog may suffer from weight loss, diarrhoea (sometimes bloody) anaemia and dehydration.
There are a number of different species of tapeworm that can affect dogs but the most significant and common ones are the flea tapeworm (Dipylidium caninum) and the hydatid tapeworm (Echinococcus granulosis). Tapeworms are transmitted when the eggs are ingested by an intermediate host and then develop into larvae. The flea tapeworm is passed to a dog when an infected flea is ingested. The hydatid tapeworm is transferred when a dog eats infected meat (offal or muscle) from an intermediate contaminated host, usually a sheep but can also be a cow, pig, kangaroo, wallaby and other wild or farm animals. The hydatid tapeworm is of particular concern as it can be passed to humans and cause serious health issues for people. Adult tapeworms live in the small intestine of the dog and live on the contents that are absorbed through the intestinal wall. Tapeworm generally doesn’t cause severe symptoms in dogs like weight loss except in severe burdens. Dogs with tapeworm may be seen scooting, scratching or biting their anus due to irritation caused by the presence of the tapeworm.
If you suspect your dog is suffering from a heavy worm burden you should contact your veterinarian for advice. To determine if intestinal worms are present and what type of worms a vet will do a faecal float test which will be examined for the presence of eggs in the faeces. This does not always pick up if worms are present but it is a very useful and non-invasive diagnostic tool. If there are secondary health complications caused by the worms, like anaemia or dehydration a vet will be able to treat these.
Treating and controlling intestinal worms should be done by giving an intestinal worming treatment as often as directed in the instructions. There are a number of different intestinal wormers available all which have different dose rates and different worming intervals and these instructions should be followed for ultimate effectiveness. Any deworming program should also involve some environmental control measures like picking up and removing faeces, providing clean food and water and washing your hands before and after handling animals.
In general, puppies should be wormed at every 2 weeks of age until 12 weeks old and then once a month until 6 months old with a suitable puppy wormer like Drontal Puppy Worming Suspension. For dogs over 6 months of age they should be wormed every 3 months, however this can vary in some circumstances. A good allwormer should be given that will provide protection against all the significant intestinal worms. If there is a worm burden you may be advised to worm the dog on a more regular basis to help bring the problem under control.
Whatever worming product you choose it is important to check what worms that product covers as a lot of products will provide cover against only certain intestinal worms. There are a number of flea preventative products that have combined with worming treatments that are applied monthly. There are also heartworm preventative products that have the combined intestinal worm cover also given monthly. These combined treatments are often a more convenient and economical way to fully cover your dog against all parasites.
If you are unsure about what worming product would be best suited to your pet or the dosage rates you should be speak to your veterinarian or contact our friendly customer service team who will be more than happy to help.